Planning a trip to the US might be a bit of a challenging task: flight arrangements, accommodation options, what cities you want to visit and how to travel between destinations… To help you sort things out, we have narrowed down the essentials in this guide.
Personal documents required when traveling to the US
- Passport. It is imperative that you have a valid passport which does not expire during your stay.
- Visa: You only need it if you are not from one of the countries included in the Visa Waiver Program (like most European countries are), or if you are traveling to the United States for more than 90 days.
- ESTA application: Even if you are exempt to ask for a visa, you need to have this authorization issued prior to your departure in order to be allowed to enter the United States.
- International driving permit. This document allows citizens of a foreign country with a valid driver’s license to drive through the States. If you are going to rent a car for traveling, you’ll need it.
Main cities and routes
Since the US is way too wide to get to know it in a single trip, the the best option is to focus in a single area rather than trying to visit all the 50 states in one sitting. So, first thing you need to know: United States’ regions.
The East Coast
This is where some of the most famous cities are located, such as the known-to-all New York, or the historical cities of Boston, Washintong D.C or Philadelphia.
Do not confuse the word ‘west’: this region occupies the center of the United States in the north, with amazing cities such as Chicago. Skyscrapers, beautiful art and architecture, and giant pizza. What else could you ask for?
Stretching from the southern east coast to the center, the south is the perfect combination of music and street life. In wonderful cities such as New Orleans, Nashville, Texas or Miami you can find country and jazz bars, bustling terraces and exotic gastronomy.
The west coast
The western region starts up-north, right on the border with Canada, and goes all the way down south to Mexico. From the rainy streets of Seattle and the bohemian lifestyle of Portland to the endless hills of San Francisco, the luxurious beaches of Los Angeles and the neon craziness of Las Vegas, the west coast features some of the most beautiful and assorted landscapes of America.
Now that you know what the main attractions of each region are, you can decide whether you like to visit a single or a couple cities, or taking a bigger route instead. Here are some of the favourites:
- West Cost Route: An unforgettable road trip through natural parks and emblematic cities of the area. You can do it in 20 days, leaving from Seattle and going through the states of Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada. If you have extra budget and some days left, do not hesitate to travel from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon (Colorado). It’s just a 5 hours ride and you’ll get to visit the most impressive natural attraction in the United States.
- Route 66: Also known as The Mother’s Way, this 3939km route once started in Chicago and ended up in Santa Monica. This 3939 km trip crossed 8 states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Today, the Route 66 as such does not exist, since it has been replaced by highways. But part of the new road is signposted with Historic Route 66 boards, so this is still one of the trips dreamed by bikers from all over the world.
- Route 61– Including the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the “blues route” can be done in a week. It runs between the forgotten towns and cotton plantations around the Mississippi River. You can start in Memphis and end it in New Orleans.
- East Coast Route: This is the perfect trip to learn the History of the United States. In only 12 days, you can travel around the main historical locations (New Haven, Cap Cod, Concord, Boston, Philadelphia, Washintong…) and finish your adventure in New York.
Accommodation, transportation and food
Even when the US is not an inexpensive country, you can easily find hostels and motels for less than 20$ per person/night. If you are on a short budget, save money getting your meals in local supermarkets or street food stands. A car is the best option for easy transportation, but if you can’t afford or are not able to rent one, you can get bus tickets for less than 6$ in Megabus and Greyhound companies.